Flags fly as the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to face off in SuperBowl 58.
Flags fly as the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to face off in SuperBowl 58.
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Still-Smarting Baltimore Preps For Super Bowl

As Ravens fans lick their wounds following a near miss in the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs and 49ers prepare to face off Sunday, in what Quill sports writers say could be a game for the ages.

This Sunday, February 11th, the Kansas City Chiefs will face off against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl at 6:30 pm EST.

Sure, fans might not want to watch a rematch of the 2020 Super Bowl. And many Baltimore fans have a sour taste in their mouths after the AFC Championship game.

Still, let’s look at the two teams facing off after four years. There are many differences between the two.

Outside of their quarterback, the Chiefs’ defense may be the most important part of their team. Each layer, whether it be the defensive line, linebacker corps, or the secondary, has a wide variety of talent.

On the defensive line, there are stars like George Karlaftis and Chris Jones. The linebackers are headlined by Nick Bolton and Willie Gay. And the secondary has defensive backs L’Jarius Sneed, Trent Mcduffie, and Justin Reid.

This defense has ranked top-5 in most categories, and has the second-fewest total yards allowed of any team.

It was very present in the AFC Championship game versus the Ravens, where the team held the Ravens’ offense to a total of 336 yards, and an impressive 81 rushing yards against a team that averaged 150 rushing yards a game. The Chiefs’ defense also produced three turnovers from the Ravens, which definitely helped them win the game.

All of this is a very impressive performance from the defense. But there should be an asterisk by this performance. In the 4th quarter on the Ravens’ last two drives that both ended in the end-zone, three pass interferences from the Chiefs were not called. One of these plays resulted in a Chiefs’ turnover, and another in an illegal contact from a Chiefs defensive back.

Plus, even though the Chiefs held the Ravens to 81 rushing yards, the Chiefs heavily benefitted from the Ravens only calling a total of 16 plays. The 16 run plays the Ravens called against the Chiefs is half their average.

Overall, though the Chiefs’ defense seems unstoppable, it definitely has some flaws the 49ers offense can exploit.

In the NFC championship game last Sunday night, we may have gotten a preview of some keys to Super Bowl 58.

The 49ers’ offense looked off in the first half, as quarterback Brock Purdy threw a pick to Malcolm Rodriguez, as they spiraled into a 17-point deficit at halftime. In the second half, with the help of a great rushing attack led by star running back Christian McCaffery, Purdy led his team down the field on their way to the win.

Purdy is the key to the 49ers’ offensive success. They have all the weapons any quarterback in the NFL would need to succeed. Deebo Samuel is electric with the ball in his hands. Christian McCafferey has shown himself to be a receiving and running threat. Brandon Aiyuk had a breakout 2023 campaign. And George Kittle might be the best tight end in the league at blocking and receiving.

Even with a star-studded skill group like this, Purdy has shown vulnerability in the past. In San Francisco’s Christmas Day game against the Ravens, he threw four picks en route to a loss. To add to the concern, this 17-point comeback was against a Detroit passing defense that was 6th worst in the entire league, whereas the Kansas City defense was 4th best. If Purdy makes solid decisions with the ball and keeps his turnovers to one or fewer, San Francisco could have a monster game offensively.

San Francisco’s defense has been near the top of the league for a few seasons now – especially their run defense. But that did not show in the championship game.

Their run defense that normally allows 90 yards per game allowed 180 yards to the Lions, including this 48-yard touchdown run by 2nd-year wide receiver Jameson Williams. They were able to get back into the game thanks to turnovers on downs and a forced fumble, but two crucial stops they made were actually dropped passes by Lions’ wide receivers, not a result of good defense.

These might seem like warning signs. But against a Chiefs running attack that is in the bottom half of the league, the key will be in their passing defense against the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes and his long-time top target Travis Kelce get a lot of the shine, don’t forget Rashee Rice, who has been a great rookie – and Mahomes’ go-to guy when Kelce has been covered. 

As the season draws to a close, we have seen some great games. Although it might seem boring to see a “repeat” Super Bowl like this one, it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Last time these teams played in a Super Bowl, the Chiefs won. But with a new quarterback and new players, and the 49ers with a lot of roster turnover, this could be a game for the ages.

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